World Bank OKs $297 million for Morocco concentrated solar power plant

The World Bank on Thursday approved loans to Morocco totaling $297 million to help finance the first phase of a 500 megawatt concentrating solar thermal power plant, among the largest in the world.

The Ouarzazate concentrated solar power plant is the first in Morocco’s $9 billion solar power program, vital for a country that has no oil or gas but has an abundance of sun.

The World Bank said $200 million of the loan will come from its fund that lends to middle-income countries, and the other $97 million from a World Bank Clean Technology Fund. The World Bank said Thursday it would lend Morocco $297 million in support of the huge 500 megawatt Ouarzazate solar thermal project.

The money will support the first 160 megawatts phase of the Ouarzazate plant, being developed by the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy and a private partner, the World Bank said.

"Ouarzazate demonstrates Morocco’s commitment to low-carbon growth and could demonstrate the enormous potential of solar power in the Middle East and North Africa," said World Bank president Robert Zoellick in a statement.

"This solar project could advance the potential of the technology, create many new jobs across the region, assist the European Union to meet its low-carbon energy targets, and deepen economic and energy integration in the Mediterranean," he said.

Ouarzazate is only the first part of Morocco’s ambitious plan of developing 2,000 megawatts in solar power generation capacity by 2020.

The first stage is a concentrated solar power design, using parabolic trough mirrors to concentrate solar energy at a receiving tube that contains fluid material to absorb and carry the heat to a generator. In July France said it would allocate 103 million euros ($140 million) to help finance the Ouarzazate solar project.